“The Motion Demon”

This week’s piece of weird fiction being discussed over at LibraryThing – nominated by me as it turns out.

Review: “The Motion Demon”, Stefan Grabinski, trans. Miroslaw Lipinski, 1919.

I suspect Mark Samuels’ “The End to Perpetual Motion” was inspired by this story though it goes in a very different direction. This story is certainly weird and full of mystery and ambiguity.

The story opens on an express train running between Paris and Madrid. We start with the perspective of forest creatures seeing the frightening train, to them, roar past. 

We then shift to a first-class compartment where a man is alone and dozing, a book titled Crooked Lines on his lap and a stamp in the book giving us his name: Tadeusz Szygon. 

A conductor comes in to check the man’s ticket, and a terse exchange follows. 

The man doesn’t have a ticket. He doesn’t know why he didn’t buy one at the station. Yes, he’ll pay the fine. No, he doesn’t know where on the line he got on the train. Let’s just assume it was Paris and bill the whole fare plus the fine. No, he doesn’t care that a ticket will get him only to Madrid. He’ll get another train there as long as he can keep riding. 

The conductor says he’ll have to go away and prepare the ticket and figure out how much the fine will be. Szygon’s attention becomes fixed on the insignia on the conductor’s collar. It’s jagged little wings weaved to form a circle. 

Then Szygon becomes angry:

‘Mr. Wings, watch out for the draft!’

‘Please be quiet; I’m closing the door.’

‘Watch out for the draft,’ he stubbornly repeated. ‘One can sometimes break one’s neck.’” 

The conductor mutters that Szygon is either crazy or drunk and leaves. 

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“The Wandering Train”

This week’s piece of weird fiction from LibraryThing’s Deep Ones discussion.

Review: “The Wandering Train”, Stefan Grabinski, trans. Miroslaw Lipinski, 1919. 

In some ways, this is a simple story. It doesn’t even have any real characters except the titular train.

The story opens at the Horsk train station just before the holidays. We get a description of the passengers and the railroad employees going about their work.

Yet, we’re told the careful observer would note something is wrong:

One could deduce this from the nervous, exaggerated gestures of the railwaymen and their restless glances and anticipating faces. Something had broken down in the previously exemplary system. Some unhealthy, terrible current circulated along its hundredfold-branched arteries, and it permeated to the surface in half-conscious flashes.

There is something new, some unexpected element in a domain where

everything had been calculated, weighed, measured – everything, though complex, had not passed human understanding.

It seems the railwaymen worry about an accident. A train of unknown origin and certainly not accounted for in the schedule has been seen at various points in the system. Each time, it’s been closer to the regular trains. Is an accident inevitable?

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“The White Wyrak”

It was my idea to discuss this piece of weird fiction over at LibraryThing, and I’m glad I did.

Review: “The White Wyrak”, Stefan Grabiński, trans. Miroslaw Lipinski, 1921.The Weird

Our narrator genially recounts his early days as a journeyman in the chimney sweeping trade to some young men starting the same career.

He worked under Master Kalina, and his fellow journeymen included Antarek, gloomy and silent, but always seeming to grasp the philosophic truth in the many tales Kalina tells his employees.

When Antarek doesn’t show up one night after a job, Kalina goes looking for him at the brewery where he was sent to clean a chimney. The brewery stopped operating years ago. Eventually the property was picked up cheap by a family. They don’t know what happened to Antarek but complain the chimney is still smoking.

Another apprentice is sent out, and he doesn’t come back either. Kalina, whom the narrator says was a wise man, seems to know what’s up. He takes the narrator with him when they go to the brewery. Continue reading